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tv   [untitled]    February 26, 2012 4:30am-5:00am EST

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mantel in his own house according to a sailor. the signal officer pleaded with him to come down. we can't afford to lose you, flag officer, he shouted. they'll get you up there sure. he finally climbed down and as he reached the deck a shell exploded where he had been standing just a moment before. on deck of the hartford during much of this action was the fleet surgeon who made notes in realtime and a little notebook strapped to his wrist to write up later in his journal. i cannot and will not attempt a discrimination of this awful, dreadful, trying scene, he wrote. but then proceeded to do so. the din, the roar, the crash, the whistling of the balls, the bursting of shells, the crashing of masts and timbers was a scene that has never been surpassed. a magazine in ft. jackson
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exploded. the river was filled with burning fire rafts. these were large rafts piled with kindling and logs soaked with oil, which the confederates lit and floated down toward the union ships. veering to avoid one of them, the hartford ran aground under the guns of ft. st. phillip. a confederate tug pushed the raft. flames climbed up the side of the hull and shot halfway up the mast. i thought it was all up with us, faragate wrote. the quick thinking signal officer, the same man who had talked faragate down from the rigging, rolled three shells to the side of a deck, uncapped them and pushed them to the side
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of the raft blasting them to fragments. the engineers applied all power to back the ship off the mud and she proceeded on upriver. after treating some wounded men below, the hartford surgeon came back on deck again where as he wrote in his journal, i saw a big river steamboat coming straight for us. her decks were black with armed men who he haevidently hoped tod our ships. there was a shell planted in the advancing steamboat. he must have gone straight to the boiler or magazine because there was a terrific explosion in the entire vessel with her swarming human freight disappeared. the most feared confederate vessel was the css manassas which was actually the war's first ironclad to have gone into action on the lower mississippi the previous october.
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it was a small river steamer that had been cut down and sheathed in one inch of iron so it looked like a turtle shell. in a letter to his wife, furagate described what happened on this morning of april 24th, 1862. they saw the ram coming up. i hailed smith, commander of the big side wheeler "uss mississippi" and told him to run her down. smith turned his ship headed downstream and they ran at each other. we all look on with intense anxiety. when within 50 yards, the enemy's heart failed him and he turned to the right and ran onshore. she floated downstream on fire from her own furnaces and soon
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sank. as a side bar to this sinking, the lieutenant who conned the mississippi in this confrontation was 24-year-old george dewey, who would sail into manila bay to annihilate the spanish fleet and earn his stripes later. 14 of the 17 union ships at new orleans made it past the forts. only one, the verona, was sunk. confederates lost seven of their eight gun boats plus the manassas. the remaining confederate gun boat was later captured. they blew up ironclad to prevent its capture. at the cost of only 37 killed and 147 wounded, furagate's fleet won a remarkable victory. that victory was incomplete
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until new orleans was in their possession. at mid morning on april 24th, furgate's ships rendezvoused above the forts. they were all more or less damaged but still operational. furagte decided to continue upriver and attack the city. the con federfederate troops han called upriver leaving behind only local militia which fled at the approach of the fleet. the city was virtually defenseless except for two earth works with 14 guns flanking river three miles downstream from new orleans where andrew jackson had stopped the british in 1815. but nothing was going to stop
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faragate. five of his ships including the hartford came on firing crushing broad sides into the works. in 20 minutes the confederate guns were silenced. those who could run were running in every direction. cut off and isolated downriver with troops approaching the forts, the garrison at ft. jackson mutinied and both ports surrendered and navy ships that remained there on april 28th. furagate lead the fleet to new orleans where they found ships burning and thousands of bails of cotton floating down the river also on fire destroyed by the confederates to prevent their capture.
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mobs rioted in the streets and threatened the yankees with bloody vengeance. the future southern author, george washington cable, witnessed the fury of this mob. the crowds on the levee howled and screamed with rage, he recalled. the swarming decks answered never a word but one old tar on the hartford standing beside a great pivot gun so plain to view you could see him smile silently patted its big black breach and blandly grinned. with naval guns trained on its streets, new orleans surrendered. and butler's troops arrived to preserve some kind of order. if the passage of the forts by the union fleet under faragate was not quite the night the war was lost, as the title of a
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modern book about this campaign would have it, the capture of new orleans was arguably the most important in the entire war. southern newspapers bemound -- and these are now quotations from different southern newspapers articles. "the great disaster and humiliation, sudden shock, unexpected heavily blow, by far the most serious reverse of the w war." one who lamented in his diary, the recent disaster at new orleans, i cannot help admitting
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the possibility of the subgags of the southern states. far away in london, young henry adams returned from a springtime walk in hyde park to find his normally austaire father dancing across the floor and shouting "we've got new orleans!" the effect of this news here, henry added, has been greated than anything yet. the confederate envoy in britain, james mason, virginian, also wrote from london the fall of new orleans will exercise a depressing influence here for intervention. it was the climatic event in the series of union victories that winter and spring that bob krick
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talked about this morning. the fall of new orleans at the end of april was the climatic event in a series of event of union victories that winter and spring which dampened the french emperor's pro-confederate sympathies. there is little more said just now about the proprighty of early recognition of the south. his early orders after capturing new orleans, take advantage of the panic to push a strong force up the river and take all their defenses in the rear. you will also reduce the fortifications which defend moeb mobile bay and turn them over. a tall order indeed as future events would demonstrate.
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faragate preferred to attack b moble before going up the mississippi. but his orders specified priority for opening the river before attacking mobile. so he informed wells in early may, i have sent seven gun boats up the river to keep up the panic as far as possible. the large ships, i fear, will not be able to go higher than baton rouge. in fact, as we'll see in a moment, they did go much higher than that but at that time he thought they would not. i have sent smaller vessels under commander samuel phillips lee as high as vicksburg.
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these gun boats forced surrender of baton rouge on the way up. but when lee reached vicksburg on may 18th, the confederate military governor there sent a cheeky reply. mississippians don't know and refuse to learn how to surrender to any enemy. if they can teach them, let them come and try. faragate would soon some and try. he decided to take most of the fleet up to vicksburg at a fairly high stage of the river in that late spring, but he was not happy about this prospect. in letters to his wife, he complained of the navy department's pressure on him and ignorance of the difficulties he
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faced. they will keep us in this river until the vessels break down and all of the little reputation we have made has evaporated, he wrote. the government appeared to think we can do anything but fighting is nothing to the evils of the river getting onshore, running afoul of one another, losing anchors, et cetera. to secretary wells faragate reported elements of destruction to the nevada in this river are beyond anything i have ever encountered. more anchors have been lost and vessels ruined than i have seen in a lifetime and those vessels that do not run into others are themselves run into and crushed in such a manner as to render them unseaworthy. no doubt an exaggeration. wells' reaction to this letter is unknown. he knew that faragate would be named an admiral and wells told
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faragate we know the job of capturing vicksburg will be challenging but we know you can do anything and are about to become an admiral so go do it. so faragate took his ship up there. when i will go down again, god only knows. it appears the department is under the impression that it is easier for me to encounter the difficulties of the mississippi river and ascend 1,000 miles against a strong current than it is for foot and davis with vessels constructed for the river to come down the stream. faragate's reference here was to
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ironclad boats and supported by the timber clads which worked with union army in the capture and moved into mississippi where they helped capture island number ten and destroyed the confederate river defense fleet at memphis and captured that city in early june, 1862. foot had been wounded in the angle at ft. donaldson and by may, 1862, his wound was giving him so much trouble he took a leave and was replaced by charles davis. at the end of june and beginning of july, 1862, the two union fleets rendezvous at vicksburg. they tried to capture that river fortress which had by then become the confederates principle on mississippi.
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deciding to test vicksburg defenses, faragate steamed upriver with broad sides blazing while the scooners stayed behind to pound the positions. the river was now dropping so they had to begin this maneuver at dawn on june 28th. all but three of the ships made it past the batteries at the cost of ten men killed in the fleet. faragate was again lucky not to be one of them for the hartford was riddled from stem to stern. fairgate just climbed down from his favorite spot when an enemy cut the shrouds just above his
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head. it dropped a half-mast without being perceived by us. this circumstance caused the other vessels it thinko think i been killed. they returned to them as soon as we have passed. naval guns and mortars could not knock out all of the enemies dug in batteries at vicksburg. nor could they capture the town and hold it against con ffedera infantry. 15,000 of whom were reported to be in the vicinity. i am satisfied, faregate wrote to wells, it's not possible to take without a force of 15,000 men. general butler sent 3,000 soldier with the fleet but they were far too few to do anything other than start digging a canal
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across the peninsula between the loops in the river in the vain hope it would create a new channel beyond range of the confederate batteries. faragate wrote to the general whose 1,000 men recently occupied an area in mississippi and asked for enough troops to help capture vicksburg in a combined operation with the navy. not for the last time would he prove himself to be general can't be done in response to such requests from the navy. he replied to fairgate the weakened condition of my forces renders it impossible for attach troops to cooperate with you. while waiting for a reply, he began to fret about the dropping level of the river.
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the summer heat was already taking a toll on his sailors and army soldiers trying to dig that canal. so were the ravages of malaria. a sister ship of the hartford was depressed by the prospect of being stuck in the river for the rest of the summer as he put it smitten with insects, heat intolerable, fevers, chills, and indpl inglorious inactivity lose everything the ship has won. they were concerned about reports and rumors concerning an ironclad, the "css arkansas" which was in fact almost completed and ready to come down the yazoo river to challenge the fleet in vicksburg. they sent three gun boats up the
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yazoo river on july 15th. they found the arkansas to their regret for she was coming down with her ten guns blazing damaging two of the union gun boats and sending the third fleeing before her. as the arkansas emerged into the mississippi, she found both union fleets at anchor with steam down to conserve scarce coal. as the arkansas passed through the gauntlet of ships, they fired heavy broadsides at her but couldn't stop her. in return as commander isaac brown later wrote, his vessel fired back without fear of hitting a friend or missing an enemy. she finally reached the protection of vicksburg batteries below union fleet. it was an impressive achievement but a costly one. in the fights on the yazoo and
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mississippi, the arkansas lost 25 men killed and 28 wounded. the scene around the gun deck upon our arrival was ghastly and extreme wrote a masters mate on the arkansas. blood and brains spattered everything and legs e es and headless trunks were strewn about. the exploit was praised at the most brilliantly ever recorded. that seems a little bit over the top but it was acutely embarrassing to faragate and his fleet admitting they were caught with their britches down. he reported the incident to wells with what he confessed was deep mortiification. he was democrtermined to destroe
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fleet no matter what it took. he hoped to blow the arkansas out of the water but couldn't spot her in the gathering darkness. he intended, he said, to try to destroy her until my squadron is destroyed or she is. there's no rest for the wicked until she is destroyed. fairgat percesuaded to send und the vicksburg guns to ram the arkansas while the fleet would bombard the vicksburg batteries to keep down their fire. this union attacked occurred on july 22nd. the two northern vessels hit the arkansas glancing blows which appeared to not do significant damage. they cracked the engine's connecting rods deranging the
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arkansas's weak and unreliable engin engines. two weeks later the connecting rods broke and the arkansas's crew blew her up to prevent her capture by union gun boats. the arkansas had been able to get that far downriver because the navy department sent the welcome orders to take his fleet down to new orleans and then with part of it out into the gulf of mexico to avoid being stranded in the river as the water continued to drop. just so that we are on salt water i shall be satisfied and hope not to grumble at the fates that will take me out of the freshwater river. the failure to take vicksburg in july 1862 was part of a
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succession of union failures in the second half of that year which arrested the union momentum that had crested with the capture of new orleans and the river navy's capture of memphis. for the time being, the confederates owned the mississippi river between vicksburg and port hudson which they also fortified. furgit furigate was on the way to becoming a hero of the war and first full admiral in american history. thank you. i'll try to answer your questions. [ applause
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[ applause ] >> let me ask the audience a question. how many of you suspected that jim mcpherson was going to nominate david faragate. one vote. >> how much do you think the efforts assisted faragate's activity in new orleans? >> that was an important factor. originally the confederates had created what they called a river defense fleet down in new
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orleans, the 14 vessels, which could have given him a lot of trouble. they were called up river, six of them were sent up river. i think ultimately this was a decision by confederate secretary of the navy and then endorsed by jefferson davis so those six vessels had been sent up to contest the union fleet's effort to capture island number t ten. this was in late march. that lessened the opposition to faragate. another example of what lincoln was trying to get his commanders to do was to move simultaneously against con ffederate defenses thin out those defenses rather than just one at a time. and so clearly i think simultaneous advance by the
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upper river fleet union fleet and especially island number ten was of material aid to farages ever. >> i was struck by the similarity by tactics used at island ten and running at night and et cetera and use of the mortar rounds. >> that's right. the union fleet was learning these tactics of running the ford. the commander of the union fleet at island number ten charles davis who had replaced andrew was reluctant to allow them to go and henry, the commander, volunteered and said we can do it. he did. general john pope, who was the army commander there investing island number ten said he needed a second gun boat.
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davis was again reluctant but agreed to allow "uss pittsburgh." these are built at the end of 1861 and early 1862 that captured ft. henry and held with capture of ft. donaldson and those gun boats made it possible for pope's army to trap the entire garrison at island number ten and capture them. so these tactics of running which went back to 1861, they were bearing a lot of fruit here on the river in 1862. >> dr. mcpherson, thank you about some of the examples that you provide in your great study, of the individual decisions made by people like david faragate,
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why do you think that as many officers especially of the naval forces, marines and sailors, made the decision in 1861 to stay with the old flag? >> there are some other good examples of that. i mentioned lee. he was a virginian. drayton is one of my favorite examples. a naval officer whose brother, thomas, was a confederate general defending ft. walker and port royal bay when drayton was commander of one of the union ships that attacked that came from wealthy south carolina family but remained loyal to the union. i think that one of the reasons why you find a fairly substantial number of naval


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